Storm Desmond – four things charities are doing to help

The devastation caused by Storm Desmond in Cumbria and Lancashire has been well reported: more than 5000 homes were flooded and 43,000 left without power. Bridges, roads and railway lines have all suffered damage, making the rescue operation more difficult. Charities have been working with emergency services, the NHS and social services to help people affected by the disaster.

As a Cumbrian, I’ve found the news particularly sad, especially after similar flooding as recently as 2009.

As the flood waters recede and people start to assess the damage, here is a round-up of what charities have been doing to help.

1.  Evacuating people

The RNLI and a number of mountain rescue teams have been rescuing people from flooded homes and buildings after 36 hours of rain left many streets impassable. The RNLI Flood Rescue team is made up mostly of volunteers from lifeboat stations along the coast, and some members are veterans of the 2009 flood rescue operation in Cockermouth. Mountain rescue volunteers from areas such as Wales, Devon and Cornwall have made the journey to Cumbria to help. Meanwhile, the RSPCA’s flood rescue teams have been working with the emergency services to rescue people and animals trapped by the water.

2.  Providing shelter

Emergency response organisations are calling on their trained and experienced volunteers to help with the flood response. The Red Cross opened a number of shelters in Cumbria, all of which were mostly staffed by volunteers. The volunteers handed out food, clothing and cleaning supplies, and were also able to offer emotional support and first aid assistance.

3.  Giving out supplies

Food banks and donation hubs have been giving out food and clothing to flood-hit families. The North Lakes food bank, part of the Trussell Trust network, is one of them, despite opening only three weeks before the flood. Impact Furniture Services, a charity based in Cumbria, is offering furniture to families whose possessions have been ruined. Many community and volunteer groups, such as Preston to Places, have started their own donation drives to provide things from toiletries to Christmas toys.

4.  Financial assistance

The Cumbria Community Foundation is appealing for donations to its Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund, to help individuals or families who are suffering financial hardship as a result of the flooding. It began with a £50,000 donation from the foundation’s own funds and the total has now exceeded £500,000. The money will be used to pay initial hardship grants and will also help with wider community relief and rebuilding projects. The Prince of Wales’ Countryside Fund is spending £40,000 to help those affected by floods, £10,000 of which has gone to the Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund. The other £30,000 is to help farmers who have lost livestock or equipment, and to help repair walls and fences.

This is only a sample of what charities are doing to help people affected by flooding. Much more is going on through social action, private sector donations and simple offers of help from friends and neighbours. To share more examples of how charities are helping the flood response please use the comments section below.

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Helen Raftery Helen was formerly the external relations trainee officer at NCVO, working on media and parliamentary affairs.

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